City Year caught up with Ian Philbrick, a freshman at Georgetown University and 2012-13 City Year Boston corps member who served at the Young Achievers K-8 Pilot School. We asked him to reflect on his year of service and give some words of advice for potential corps members.  We adapted the style of the famous Proust Questionnaire, seen on the back cover Vanity Fair and widely used on Inside the Actors Studio, to tell Ian’s story.

Visit our site to learn more and apply to join our corps during the 2014-2015 academic year. The second application deadline is November 15th.

What was your favorite part of City Year?

Three things: the team, the students, and serving in a public school so soon after graduating from one.  My team was the most interesting, diverse, and supportive group of people I’ve ever encountered, and my students inspired me to work harder for the benefit of others than I’ve ever worked in my life.  Serving at Young Achievers both allowed me to reflect on my own educational experience and enhanced my interest, perspective, and knowledge about some of the larger challenges facing the U.S. educational system in general.

What was the most challenging part about City Year?

A significant challenge was accepting that I wouldn’t always know how to handle a given situation or immediately know how to best serve my students. Learning to collaborate with others, delegate work, and ask for help from my teammates and team leadership when I needed it (and being able to helpfully reciprocate that if someone asked the same of me) was at once the most challenging and important aspect of my service.

How many hours of sleep did you get on an average night?

The amount of sleep fluctuated with the amount of work, but on average I regularly got between 7 and 8 hours per night — just what doctors recommend for young corps members engaged in the enterprise of idealism.  I wish I could say I was sleeping as well in college…

What was your typical meal as a corps member?

Cooking for myself on a daily basis was a new experience, so I ended up playing it pretty safe and making a lot of pasta, omelets, cooked veggies, and salads for myself.  I’m somewhat proud of having (mostly) stayed away from ramen.

Do you have a favorite moment during your year of service?

It feels a little contrived to elevate just one, but my proudest moment was when one of my seventh grade students, who’d been lagging behind on a science project, told me he had spent his entire afternoon at the library working in order to get it done on time.  While I caution against waiting until the last minute to get anything done, the dedication, hard work, and responsibility this student proudly showed me in that moment was humbling.

What do you miss the most about City Year?

I miss equally the well of encouragement, camaraderie, and friendship that was my team as well as the unique yearlong experience of dedicating myself entirely to a cause greater than myself.

What don’t you miss about City Year?

I definitely don’t miss the long workday.  Georgetown probably demands more of my time in total than City Year did, but this year I’m also not in a classroom for eleven hours straight!

What was your favorite subject to tutor students?

I loved the hour-long one-on-one tutoring sessions that I had with one seventh grader and two fourth graders twice a week last year.  At the same time, although I’m a humanities guy, serving in a science classroom and assisting my students with their work reminded me of with how much I used to enjoy science back when I was a middle school student myself.

What has your first year after serving been like?

In some ways, the experience of college feels much more self-centered than my corps year was in that most of what I do now — my work, extracurricular activities, schedule, etc. — is focused on me.  I can thank my seventh graders from YA, though, for reminding me how much I missed being a student and what a privilege education can be when taken advantage of.  I have no doubt they understood that, even if they might not have expressed it in the same way.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of joining City Year?

At the risk of parroting the Oracle at Dephi (something I read about with my students last year), my best advice is this: “Know thyself.”  City Year requires striking a balance between enthusiasm for full-time, hard work in professional service to important educational issues and being able to both learn from and enrich others.  If that describes you, you’ll bring something valuable to your team and to your students, and you’ll learn just how much you’re capable of accomplishing in the process.

Be sure to check-out Ian’s column U.S. education gets low marks: City Year provides better model, in The Georgetown Voice.

Ian Philbrick served with the 2012-13 City Year Boston Corps at the Young Achievers K-8 Pilot School in Mattapan, MA.  He is currently a first year at Georgetown University, where he contributes to The Georgetown Voice, is a member of the crew team, and serves as an editor for theGeorgetown Journal of International Affairs online edition.

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